Using the Empathy map to increase transparency

Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Scrum Guide, 2013


Transparency is one of the keystones of any Agile methodology. Many problems that we observe during coaching projects may be summarized as poor expectation alignment based on insufficient transparency. Do you recognize any of these?

  • “As a Customer I expect you to do this, so please do it (although I do not know if you are capable of doing this, or even whether you have all the required inputs and the capacity)”
  • “As a Customer I expect you to do this, so please do it (although I do not know if you are capable of doing this, or even whether you have all the required inputs and the capacity)”
  • “As an Analyst I am doing the best I can and expecting the developers to understand the requirements, but they don’t (have I checked their understanding?)”

If you do, you may probably want to do something about them. But how do we make transparency issues visible for all parties, so that we can start working on them during the retrospectives?

I used a UX practice called an Empathy map, and I would like to share the technique and results with you.

The situation we discussed with the team was that their Burndown chart looked like this, although the team managed to complete most of the items by the end of the sprint:


The team could not really understand why this was a problem, and I can’t blame them for it. So I drew the empathy map on a flip-chart.


Then I introduced the following exercise:

Imagine you are your Remote Manager. You are coming to the office in an extremely good mood. You sit down on your chair, open the JIRA and see:



  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear from the team?
  • What do you feel about this?
  • What do you say?
  • What do you finally do?
Among the answers were: “I would immediately call the team to get the status (which the team doesn’t like)”, “I hear that everything is fine (although I see it’s not)”, “I feel I’m being lied to (which ends up with a lot of micromanagement)”.

Over time, I realized that the team was starting to wear their Manager’s shoes, understanding one of the sources of his annoying behavior. Then we discussed the problems the Manager has under current circumstances: unclear situations, an inability to tell what works and what doesn’t, an inability to plan, an inability to help remove unseen blockers, etc.

And then we discussed the gains the Manager really wants to have from an upd ated process that we are building at our side.

As a result, we se t up a nice, self-accountable process of better task slicing and JIRA tickets updated on time.

I will continue experimenting with this technique, and if you will also — please let me know how things go.

Summary. The scenario of the session

  1. Say a few words about transparency and why it is important. You should introduce some evidence of being nontransparent to the other side.
  2. Introduce an Empathy map technique. You may learn a little bit more about it here or here. Although it is a UX design tool, I believe it is highly applicable in such cases.
  3. Ask the team to write down on the sticky notes the “Think & Feel”, “Hear”, “See”, “Say & Do” in this order and discuss the results.
  4. Discuss what is the most painful here and also put the items onto the flipchart.
  5. Generate the possible steps you may take to make the situation more transparent.
  6. Discuss the gains of those steps.
  7. Decide what particular step you will take right after the meeting and how you will be able to tell that the situation improved.

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